In Honor of Earth Day 2020: A Hopeful Sign for the Environment in the NYS Budget

April 21, 2020

By Yvette DeBow-Salsedo

Conservation News

In these challenging times, we applaud our statewide representatives for their recognition that the health of our people and the economy are deeply connected to a healthy planet. Earlier this month, facing many hard decisions, the Governor and the Legislature agreed on a budget that continues to invest in our working farms and natural lands. These important lands provide for us in so many ways, including producing healthy local foods, protecting our drinking waters, sustaining our fishing and recreational waters, providing places to walk, hike and explore, and clean air to breathe.

State environmental programs are credited with generating a $7 return on investment for every dollar spent. We hope that these programs will endure in the face of these trying financial times for our State and local governments.

Our thanks go out to Governor Cuomo, the Chairs of the Environmental Conservation Committees in the Senate and Assembly (and Long Islanders!) Senator Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Steven Englebright. We also thank our legislative members from Suffolk County for their ongoing support and commitment to the environment:

  • Senators Ken LaValle, John Flanagan, Monica Martinez, Phil Boyle and James Gaughran.
  • Assembly members Fred Thiele, Anthony Palumbo, Joe DeStefano, Doug Smith, Phil Ramos, Andrew Garbarino, Michael Fitzpatrick, Mike LePetri, Steve Stern and Kimberly Jean-Pierre

Environmental Protection Fund: $300 million including:

  • $30 million for open space protection including parks, trails, woodlands, wetlands and watershed lands
  • $18 million for farmland protection – to date, the program has protected nearly 300 farms across the state encompassing over 76,300 acres of farmland. The majority of farmers participating in the program have invested directly into their farm business; and this program is enabling the next generation of farmers to be on the land.
  • $2.5 million for the Land Trust Alliance Conservation Partnership Program – since the program was started in 2003, it has supported 12 Peconic Land Trust initiatives, including the introduction of our Farms for the Future Initiative, farmland protection planning with the Towns of Southampton and Riverhead, and land acquisitions.
  • $18.6 million for the Water Quality Improvement Program (WQIP) – this funding has been instrumental in the Trust’s Regional Aquifer Protection Land Acquisition Program – to date, we have closed on 3 projects with support from this State program – the first two in Brookhaven and then one most recently on Shelter Island

Farmland for a New Generation

Also in the budget was continued funding for the Farmland for a New Generation Program—a program administered by American Farmland Trust that established a regional navigator program throughout the state to help farmland stay active and productive. The Trust is the navigator for Long Island and we have incorporated this program into our Farms for the Future Initiative. The program matches farmland owners with farmers – and to date 38 matches have been made across the state (either sale or lease) including one here on Long Island.

Restore Mother Nature: $3 billion Bond Act

Within the budget is the authorization to place a $3 billion Bond Act on the November 2020 ballot – a once in a lifetime program to confront key climate challenges by funding projects and programs to control flooding, protect clean water, conserve natural areas and wildlife habitat, reduce carbon pollution, and protect farmland

A note of caution:

While the budget has passed, provisions in the budget allow for a periodic review and cuts based on how the state is doing over the course of the year, including removing the authorization for the Bond Act ballot. We know that these will be hard times, but also know that investments in our environment are necessary to help us weather the storms and challenges of the future. We thank all our supporters for joining us in these efforts to invest in the land and water resources that will provide for us today and into the future. Please stay safe and be well.

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